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"Aw shit! What now?" Gabe said to no one in particular, as he got up and quickly and walked over to the communication console where the offending light and sound was coming from.
"Clan Short Headquarters, Gabriel Michaels speaking," he stated.
"Gabriel, it is good to speak with you again, I just wish it was under better circumstances," the mysterious voice said.
"What now, or do I want to know?" Gabe asked, obviously resigned to knowing that this particular person would not be calling unless there was a great need.
"You should be aware of a situation in the San Francisco area involving three children," the voice began.
"You mean that mother that supposedly kidnapped those kids we saw on the news?" Travis said, coming up alongside Gabe.
"Yes, that's the case I am talking about; only it's not what it seems," the voice said.
Gabe looked at Travis with a knowing smile, then back at the blank screen before saying, "Explain."
"The father is a family court judge and the mother is a pediatrician. There is much more to this story than what's made it into the news. These children are in need of help, as is the family, and I think you'd be best suited to provide it."
Gabe and Travis once again exchanged glances before Gabe said, "Okay, we'll investigate and do whatever we can to assist."
"Thank you, I knew I could count on you. I'll transmit what I have at this time, and will update you as more information becomes available. Gabe, they are trying to save a child, but have run up against more than they bargained for. Please help them," the voice said quietly.
"We will," Gabe replied. The line went dead and he looked at Travis, adding, "Here we go again."
The two boys quickly reviewed the data coming across the screen. By the time they finished, both were glowing red with anger. "This bullcrap's gonna stop!" Gabe exploded. "Some bitch with connections thinks that she can abuse her kid, and get anyone arrested who tries to help him escape the abuse! Emmy, set Alligator Alley to Condition Red, activate CSNIC, and give me everything you got. Stand by for mobile grabs on short notice."
"Gotcha, Uncle Gabe. Sleazeball Extermination Mode engaged!" Emmy replied.
Meanwhile, Travis quickly found someone to show him how to operate the 1MC. Within seconds, he was keying the mic, announcing "All Unit personnel report to the Iowa Flight Deck. Extended Range Operations expected. Set Condition Yellow. Once again, All Unit personnel report to the Iowa Flight Deck for ERO. Set Condition Yellow."
Up and down the pier, klaxons began sounding as the entire fleet took Travis' announcement as a direct order. The bridge on the Iowa quickly became crowded as Clan officers began popping in, all congregating around Gabe and Travis to get details on the situation.
"Can I send a few Tomahawks over to get their attention?" Leon growled as the pictures that had been taken of the abused boy who was the target came up on screen.
"They're not getting off that easy," Tracy stated from behind him. "Cory, we need to get them onboard, and grab the father out of jail."
"Yeah, that's a good start," Cory replied, "Mont, Bast, Jorge? You're on deck; full gear, in and out."
"Got it, Cory." Mont replied as all three called for their riot gear.
"I got the mommy and kids," Timmy announced in a tone that gave no argument. "Ark, can ya' drop me in da movin' car please?"
<Certainly, Timmy. I have located historical data which I am providing now. Please have the mother stop the vehicle, and once you are ready I will assist in relocating all of you onboard the Iowa.>
"Okay Ark; I'm ready," the warpaint-covered six-year-old stated.
As Timmy vanished, Tracy turned to Andreas and Killian. "I want the bitch that did this to that boy in the holding cell at Alligator Alley CIC within the next five minutes. Grab one of the Mikyvis kids and have fun."
"Ohhh, I get to have fun!" Bryce stated as he popped in between the bear-boys. "C'mon, I'll drive!" he added as all three vanished.
"Dang, you guys trying to destroy California?" JJ quipped as he made his way through the crowd.
"Naw, that's phase two, when we send you over!" Cory shot back with a slight grin.
"Jeeeze, destroy one little police station and everyone thinks you're dangerous!" JJ said with a fake pout.
"As Dad would say, if the shoe fits..." Tracy interjected.
"Yeah, I'm getting a really kewl collection of police badges," JJ admitted. "Hey Emmy, this list of names is gettin' huge, you wanna start up a scorecard for us?"
"Sure Uncle JJ." Emmy replied. "I just dedicated two VI branches to processing. CIC's crashing into every law enforcement computer in the region; Jack says from the looks of it the data's gonna take a few days to sort for the whole picture. He also says that what he's seen so far stinks worse than Uncle Sean's feet!"
Cory glanced at Tracy. "Once your guys got a solid picture, get with Prez. He's already got some experience in California, so he needs to be in on the cleanup."
"That works," Tracy replied. "I'm gonna call Uncle Colin; I think he needs to be brought into the loop, since I'm already seeing us doing cleanup in the Fed sector."
"While you're doing that, I'm calling Pop." JJ quickly added. "He'll know who to get on standby on the West Coast."
Joanne Samuelson was running the motorhome she was driving right at the speed limit, not wanting to take the chance of being noticed by a police officer looking for reasons to hand out tickets. All three boys in back were quiet, obviously up to no good, but for now that didn't concern her. Daren, Rodney, and Kalen not ending up in the hands of California's corrupt legal system was much more important.
A little voice off to her right almost made her jerk the wheel in shock.
"Hi Mrs. Samuelson! I'm Timmy. You wanna cookie?"
Quickly making sure the RV was under control, Joanne looked over at the passenger seat to find it occupied by a skinny six-year-old, in full indian dress and wearing warpaint. What made it strange was the long bright red hair which took the longest path it could to his bare shoulders. "Just how did you get here, Timmy?" she asked in shock.
"My Daddy's Pattreark of Clan Short, so I can do all kindsa kewl stuff!" Timmy announced proudly. "I'm gonna take you to his flagship in Florida, so you're safe. We gotta stop at the mall up here, or you might drive off the ship. You didn't say if you wanted a cookie though."
Almost willing to give Timmy the benefit of the doubt due to how he appeared, Joanne replied "I wouldn't mind a cookie about now... oh crap, I don't think we're going to make it to the mall, Timmy."
The reason for the added statement made its presence well known by a bleep on it's siren to make sure it had the driver's attention. Joanne pulled off to the side, and rolled down her window in resignation.
The officer, an Iowa State Police Trooper, came up to the window, saying "I'm sorry for the trouble, but due to an Amber Alert we have been asked to check all vehicles with plates from the West Coast states. Could you and anyone else in the vehicle please exit and stand off to the side?"
Before Joanne could reply, Timmy was climbing over her lap and passing an ID card to the officer. "They're with me." Timmy stated firmly. "The Amber Alert is fake, they did nothin' wrong."
The officer looked over the ID, comparing it to the munchkin now leaning out the window. "Thanks for the assistance, Mr. Short; I'll inform dispatch of your update on the alert." he stated as he handed the ID back.
"You're welcome. Wanna cookie?" Timmy replied with a smile.
"Of course!" the officer replied as he rustled Timmy's hair.
Timmy reached into his medicine pouch and passed a chocolate-chip-fudge cookie to the officer, then handed another one to Joanne as he made his way back to his seat. "I'm takin' them to Florida, so they're gonna vanish from here since we're not movin'." Timmy advised the officer.
"Thanks for the warning. Have a good day," the officer said as he started eating his cookie and made his way back to the police cruiser.
Joanne silently ate her cookie as she stared ahead in shock at what had just occurred. As such, she didn't notice the little redhead silently mouthing the order to relocate the RV. Her jaw dropped as the view through the windshield changed from the tree lined highway and fields of Iowa to the base of a sixteen-inch gun turret.
"We're here; Daddy an' Unca Tracy are comin' down ta meet ya." Timmy giggled.
"I feel sorry for the world when you grow up, Timmy." Joanne muttered as she slowly regained her bearings.
"Daddy says he's givin' me my own planet!" Timmy said as he giggled even harder. "Here comes Daddy."
Joanne turned her head and saw a small herd of teens, tweens, and kids coming around the back of the turret. She also noticed two eight-year-olds climbing out of one of the tomahawk silos, big grins on their faces. "Young man, you and I are going to have a LONG talk after I recover from this," she stated.
"Kewl! I'll bring the cookies!" Timmy laughed, obviously not concerned.
As Joanne rolled her eyes at Timmy's impishness, Timmy opened the door, dove out of it, and ran over to Cory, climbing up his side until he was in his favorite spot. "Daddy, I got ta meet a really nice policeman. You betta hide 'im from Unca JJ."
Cory stopped at the driver's door as he replied, "I kinda figured that out when the Amber Alert got cancelled by Iowa on order of Timothy Short, munchkin. How'd you decide it was okay?"
"Her husband Robert's guard angel, Lucas, said so," Timmy said seriously.
"That works for me; good job Fireball." Cory grinned, "Hello Mrs. Samuelson. I'm Cory Short; welcome aboard the CSSF Iowa. You can let the boys know it's safe to come out."
"No offense, but let me decide on the safety aspect." Joanne replied seriously. "I'm having a little trouble with a six-year-old being sent out into what could have been a very dangerous situation."
Just as seriously, Cory replied "My little fireball here didn't ask; he just did it. As far as safety, he's the deadliest six-year-old in the known universe. He's had to kill more times to save lives than I want to discuss, especially since I was one of the lives he's saved. While he was with you, that police officer could have tried to shoot out the tires while you were driving and never hit you; that's how much defensive shielding he carries. The Amber Alert has been cancelled in all states except California, just on his word, and I expect Daren's egg donor to be in a cell where even the FBI can't touch her within the next ten minutes. I don't recognize Earth court orders from any judge, so she's not going anywhere until either me or Tracy put her on trial. With the evidence already gathered, at the very least she's going to a prison planet for life without parole."
"You mean to tell me if the President told you to release her, you'd ignore him?" Joanne asked.
"Actually, Uncle Colin had some very interesting suggestions regarding telephone poles and bodily orifices," Tracy giggled. "I'm Tracy Butler, half-owner of Butler Investigations and Director of Clan Short Alligator Alley Division. I've seen enough of what she's done to promise she'll never see the daylight of Earth ever again. You're sitting on the CSSF Iowa, flagship of the Clan Short Atlantic Fleet, at its homeport in MY Division in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. My brother Cory might be Clan Patriarch, but as long as you're here, the safety of you, the boys, and your husband is my responsibility. I've terminated two assholes already today who made abusing kids their hobby; the evidence is quickly adding up to a third before bedtime tonight. My husband is going to be doing a lot of cuddling tonight, for me to get any rest at all. Right now every ship on this pier is at condition yellow for one reason only, to protect you."
"And just what makes us so important?" Joanne asked.
Teri came over from off to the side where she had been watching with amusement. "I think I can answer that. I'm Teri Short, Director of Federation Youth Services. Besides the fact that my terrors like collecting new family like normal boys collect baseball cards, you came under their microscope when you fought back to save an abused child. The fact that you're here means they respected your efforts, enough to bring you under their protection without consulting with you first. As of your arrival here, theres not a jurisdiction on Earth that can touch you or the boys. That blond imp and his brother have no problem using the authority that's been given them to protect any family that gets their attention. I'll be sitting down with you later, to fill you in on the details of your new life, while the terrors indoctrinate your sons into the details of rescuing kids. As unbelievable as it sounds, right now you're in the one place where it doesn't matter who somebody knows, they can't touch you unless Cory or Tracy gives them permission to. From experience, I can tell you they'll permanently disable anybody who tries, either socially or physically."
Joanne nodded, her instincts telling her that she could trust Teri. Not really sure about kids being in charge, the fact that an adult with Teri's credentials was backing them calmed her worries somewhat. "So this isn't some kind of trick to let that bitch get her hands on the boys?"
"Trust me, the next time they see her will be when my sons put her to trial and sentence her," Teri said with a smile. "I expect that will be happening shortly after they settle their current argument."
Joanne turned to see what Teri was talking about, and lost her eyebrows somewhere around ten inches past her hairline as she heard the argument going on.
"No way, bro; I'm senior to you!" Cory replied to something Tracy had said.
"Senior? Only because Grandpa Sarek found you first!" Tracy replied. "You've got 'Tonio and Doc Austin, she's MINE!"
"Hey! I need someone who can stand up to Mom and get away with it!" Cory shot back.
"You don't need any help; we've got parents who still think we're kids!" Tracy countered. "She's gonna stay here, or I'm gonna talk Kyle into making Sean six again!"
"BOYS!" Teri interrupted. "Don't you think you should be asking before you hijack someone into your kingdom?"
"But MOOOMMMM!" Cory and Tracy whined in unison, puppy-dog-eyes and pouts on overdrive.
Teri just tilted her head, one eyebrow raised as she waited.
"Jeeeze, we can't have ANY fun!" Tracy whined under his breath as both of them gave up.
As they sulked, Karl snuck around them and approached Joanne. "Mrs. Samuelson? I'm Karl Harrington, Tracy's husband and second-in-command of Alligator Alley. Would you be interested in joining our Division as a full Clan member in the Medical Corps? You and your family have our protection either way; but based on the current intel we've received, you would be an excellent addition to our staff." Hearing mumbles behind him, Karl added, "Either of you try anything, and I'm feeding Timmy and Wayne as many pixie stix as they can handle before telling them to sleep on YOUR sides of the beds!"
Even Teri winced at the threat, while Timmy and Wayne struck their most angelic poses. Joanne considered it for a minute before replying. "Right now my main concern is getting my family back together. If I can manage that, then we'll talk about your offer."
Karl smiled as he replied "If you had answered any other way, I would have seriously reconsidered the offer. Just so you know, three of our brothers have been helping the boys while you've been ensuring their safety. One of our nephews has helped them return their appearance to normal, which made him Rodney's friend for life. They are caught up on what's happened and where they are, and are just waiting for you to decide it's safe to come out."
"Thank you, Karl," Joanne replied before turning her head to Teri. "Are they always this bad?"
"No," Teri replied, "Usually they're much worse. They're behaving right now."
Deciding to give a much more mature response than his husband had, Karl put his hands on his hips and stuck out his tongue as he wiggled side-to-side.
Not taking the bait, Joanne made her way to the side door of the RV, knocked twice, then loudly said "Pierjan!"
The sound of multiple locks being released almost immediately followed her statement. The door flew open, and three boys dressed in purple speedos followed Jamie, Jacob, Beau, and Dylan out of the living area of the camper.
Joanne's eyes went wide at the sight of the thinner of the two eleven-year-olds that had came out.
Noticing the reaction, Dylan high-fived Beau as both exclaimed "Mischief Managed!"
Tracy noticed the scowls on the faces of the twins, and quickly stated "Give me the report, bros."
Jamie and Jacob both nodded, and seconds later Tracy's face went pale. "Thanks guys, get ready to give it to Steve." Tracy said softly. "Then flush that crap outta your heads as soon as you can." He then slapped his commbadge. "Steve, Alligator Alley Recovery is at Condition Red. Report to Turret One for orders."
Cory had quickly got the report as well after he saw Tracy's face, and as Tracy was calling Steve, he issued his own orders. "Unit personnel, set Condition Red and standby for recovery operations under direction of Commander Mercer of Alligator Alley. This is not a drill."
"What just happened?" Joanne asked Teri.
"I think your new son just unleashed the worst nightmare of any child abuser; MY sons," Teri replied. "From their responses, I'm pretty certain I'd be denied jurisdiction if I asked for it. This should answer any questions that you still have about your safety; they're in Clan mode now, and they're deadly serious."
Joanne nodded. "Speaking of which, I think I'm seeing things. Daren's the smallest of the three boys, and I swear he looks like nobody's ever hurt him!"
"I'll go look with you," Teri replied. "I'm pretty sure I know the answer to how, even if it doesn't seem possible." Teri then guided Joanne through the growing crowd of heavily-armed boys who were coming in to get their orders, and got her first good look at the three boys who were the cause of the current operation that was starting. The tallest, who she recognized from the news as Kalen, was a healthy eleven-year-old with bright blue eyes and thin blond hair to his collar. Latched onto him for dear life was a boy who could easily pass for nine, yet she knew that Daren was eleven. She recognized his frail build as one that had suffered serious abuse, and his face reflected the turmoil he was feeling. His crew-cut golden blond hair was in a style no boy his age would voluntarily agree to, and his hazel eyes were filled with fright. The last boy she knew to be Rodney, and the fact he seemed to be guarding the other two was quickly apparent. His dirty blond hair was shoulder length, and his green eyes dared anyone to get too close.
"She's safe, Daren," Joanne said softly. "Her sons brought us here so that nobody can touch you."
"Are you Jamie and Jacob's mom?" Daren asked warily.
"Yes, and before the day is over I bet you'll be able to legally call Joanne your mom as well." Teri replied.
"Can we see your back, Daren?" Joanne asked.
"Dylan said you'd ask that!" Daren replied with a hint of a smile as he turned around, keeping hold of Kalen's hand.
"How?" Joanne asked as she got her first good look at Daren's back since California. "This is impossible! His injuries should still be draining, yet they're GONE!"
Teri smiled. "Welcome to my life. Beau, could you come over here and show us your back please?"
"Okay Grandma," Beau replied with a grin as he came closer and took off his shirt. Joannes eyes went wide as she saw the exact same marks that had disfigured Daren's back were now on Beau, and those were fading before her eyes."
"You did good, Beau; I'm proud of you," Teri stated.
"Jamie had me fix the inside stuff, Grandma Teri!" Dylan interjected. "Me and Beau made sure he was all fixed up."
"How?" Joanne asked again.
Pulling Beau and Dylan into a hug, Teri explained, "Beau has the ability to absorb the pain and the scars from injuries. He usually only does it on people who have suffered the type of abuse that Daren did, as the scars actually hamper their recovery. Dylan is a lot more than he appears; he's human, but is an example of what humanity could turn into in the future. If he is involved, there is nothing current medical skills could have done to help Daren. His father set that rule, and none of his sons break it."
Joanne's response was cut off by Rodney screaming, "Daddy!" before tearing through the crowd. A minute later he returned, dragging the Judge behind him, as well as a few befuddled adults.
Joanne smiled in relief. "Teri, this is my husband, Judge Robert Samuelson."
Robert held out his hand. "It's an honor meeting you in person, Director Short. May I assume that you're responsible for my family being safe?"
"Please call me Teri," Teri replied as Beau and Dylan started giggling. "Actually you're a victim of my son's sense of honor; you just became Clan Short's latest rescue."
"Ahh, that explains the lions and bear that released us!" Robert chuckled. "For some reason, the guard they were 'escorting' wasn't the least bit concerned about the wet spot on the front of his uniform. This is Dale Wakefield, formerly of the Child Investigative section of the SFPD. Just behind him are Andrew Jackson, Wendell Brooks, and Bernie Douglas, Federal Marshals."
"It looks like I need to make a call," Teri said professionally. "Andrew, Wendell, Bernie? Are you willing to accept Clan Short protection while my boys pursue their investigation? If so, I'll handle your boss."
"They're all clean, Momma Teri." Jacob announced. "We'll accept them."
All three men nodded their heads. "Yeah, that witch has contacts somewhere high up." Wendell commented.
"Accepted." Jamie stated. "Watch it, JJ will probably try to hire you!"
Teri grinned as she pulled out her communicator. "George? Connect me to Captain Dreary please."
A few seconds later, everyone heard a voice say "Federal Marshals Office, Captain Dreary. How may I assist you?"
"Hello Sam, it's Teri. I have three of your officers that have just accepted Clan protection due to some events in California."
"Thank God!" Sam interrupted. "If you mean Jackson, Brooks, and Douglas, you just made my job a lot easier. We're still trying to figure out who in the hell thought the locals had jurisdiction over a Marshal."
"That's the ones, Sam."
"Tell them to consider themselves on detached duty until otherwise decided. All the resources they have available to them are available to Cory; I want some heads to roll over this."
"If I know the looks I saw on two faces, I think the boys are opening a bowling alley!" Teri joked. "Thanks Sam; I'll let you know if the situation changes."
"Have a good day, Teri."
"You too. Goodbye."
"Welcome home, guys!" Tracy giggled as he stepped forward with Jamie under one arm and Jacob under the other.
Jacob grinned as he began the fun. "Rodney? You remember how your Dad ordered emergency custody of Daren be given to him and your mom?"
"Yeah...," Rodney replied slowly.
Jacob took over, sticking to the script they had pre-arranged with Daren to avoid freaking him out. "The goofy blond behind us doesn't believe in emergency custody, so he's overriding your Dad."
Rodney looked between the boys and his parents, confused as to why they were smiling at what sounded like it was going to be terrible news.
Switching to see-saw for effect, Jamie and Jacob quickly hit the home stretch.
"a Happy Birthday"
As Rodney was still deciphering the twinspeak, Daren came over and pulled him into a hug. "It's for real, we're brothers now and forever."
As Kalen, Robert, and Joanne joined the hug, Teri looked over at Tracy and the twins. "All three of you need to remember something. If you still doubt whether you're really family, only someone I call a son could have pulled that off in such a dramatic fashion. Good job guys, you did wonderful."
"Thanks, Mom!" all three said in unison, before breaking into giggles. A few seconds later, without even looking at him, Tracy yelled, "Hey Cory! Incoming!"
The plot worked, as Cory started looking around in the general direction Tracy was looking. As a result, it was a complete surprise when Martin, Walter, Heath, and Shelby pounced him from behind. It took a minute for Cory to recover and regain his feet, but he was shortly standing with Martin and Heath under his right arm, while Walter and Shelby took up residence under his left. "You four been having fun?" Cory asked.
"Yeah! We were checkin out alla the kewl flags they put up on the ropes!" Walter gushed.
"Did you know you can make words with them?" Martin added.
"Sweet!" Cory giggled, "I'll have to check them out!"
Heath grinned "Uncle Leon says that all the birthday boys gotta report to the Officers Mess with their family; we're still missin' a birthday boy an' his family."
"How'd you find out about him?" Cory asked with a tilt of his head.
"Dillygram!" all four replied in unison.
Cory glanced at Dylan, who suddenly had a stack of twenty halos floating over his head. "Dylan, you've got escort duty for the Samuelson family. Nice job, little guy."
"Thanks, Uncle Cory!" Dylan replied as a glow of pride at being complemented by Cory appeared around him. "C'mon Heath, Martin, Walter, and Shelby! I'll introduce you!"
Teri motioned to the adults, and as a group they followed the twins and their significant others to the impromptu party. Cory, Tracy, and the rest of the core Clan team stayed behind, their subvocals close to overload as the away teams reported in.
Bryce, Killian, and Andreas chose that time to appear, all three sporting frowns. "Uncle Cory?" Bryce whined, "Why couldn't I execute her? There ain't no way that bitch is human, she can't even spell the word love!"
Kyle and Ty made their way from the edge of the group over to their son. "You know the answer, kiddo. We ain't gods, and only God can judge a soul." Tyler explained calmly. "If we cross that line, even once, we become supermen. If that happens, we are gonna have to leave our family and hide out on our own plane, which would really suck."
"Bryce?" Cory interjected, "Just the fact that you asked that question proves you guys are still human. Ty is right about one thing though; using your special skills to judge others can make other humans look at you guys as better than them. That wouldn't be good."
Meanwhile, Killian and Andreas were giving their report to Tracy. "She's in holding cell C," Killian stated.
"Don't feed her to any of the sehlots; I don't wanna deal with Timmy if they get sick."
"Did she give you any trouble?" Tracy asked.
"Yeah, and she's got a few bruises to show for it," Andreas replied with a slight grin. "We were good, we didn't break anything living. I think her office needs new furniture though."
Tracy nodded. "Great job, guys. Kyle's been helping me understand recovery for victims of crap like this. Daren is going to need to see her taken down before he'll be able to really feel safe. Y'all did good."
"Thanks, bro!" the pair of furry boys replied.
Andreas added, "Bryce says we're lucky we ain't telepaths. He said her mind's really nasty."
"I'm glad you ain't telepaths too; one of us having nightmares tonight is enough." Tracy replied seriously. "Y'all's had enough nightmares already, I don't want to add to them."
"I love you too, bro." Andreas and Killian replied in unison before giving Tracy a double-bear-hug.
Rodney was in awe at the people he was getting to meet. As soon as they had entered the wardroom, Martin and Walter had pulled him along to introduce him to their Uncle Spock. That led to him being welcomed aboard by the ship's captain, who insisted on being called Leon. Next up was Admiral Kirk, who Rodney now called Uncle Jim under threat of tickle torture. The final straw was the call from Colin Powell wishing all three birthday boys a happy birthday. During that call, Colin had also swore to Rodney, Kalen, and Daren that the US Government was going to hunt down every single person involved in covering up the abuse Daren had received. From the tone of his voice, Rodney was pretty sure Mr. Powell wanted them to feel more pain than Daren had as punishment, for letting Daren get hurt.
"Why's everyone doing all this to protect me?" Daren asked softly as they watched a huge cake being brought into the wardroom.
Leon overheard, and pulled up a chair next to them. "Daren, you went through hell because of people who either refused to care, or considered their careers more important than your life. People like that are the reason Clan Short exists. The Clan's made up of youth who decided to stop letting people hurt others and get away with it. Adults like me, who never had a way to stop the stupidity, have started joining with the Clan to help fix society. You've seen the bad side of society, and now you're going to get to see how the good guys come out on top."
"But why?" Daren repeated.
"Because your new brothers both love you, just in different ways," Leon replied with a smile. "Your new parents took a chance because they cared enough to risk everything to protect you. You remember Mr. Baim, the teacher you had who went to jail trying to save you? Not only is he no longer in jail, but his record's been cleared, and I just finished welcoming him onboard as the Iowa's resident teacher. In fact, Jack's supposed to join us as soon as he finishes unpacking."
"I'm too much trouble," Daren whispered.
Leon shook his head. "Daren, let me tell you a secret. You're not as alone as you think you are. I know; I've been there. Look at this." Leon lifted his shirt and turned around, revealing obviously old scars striping his back. "I wasn't lucky enough to have Beau and Dilly to remove the scars, but I was lucky enough to have an uncle step in and remove me from the abuse," Leon stated softly. "He's the only family member I speak to; none of the rest exist for me anymore. Trust me, the best thing to do is let Kalen and Rodney teach you real family now. The recovery comes with time as long as you let them love you. You're worth it to them; as long as you allow it."
'I'm not alone?' Daren thought as his brain processed the scars crossing Leon's back. Unconsciously, his posture straightened slightly. It was one thing for his new family to like him, but he was sure that wouldn't last. Even Kalen would hurt him sooner or later, he was sure of that. But now, here was a grownup who had been whipped too; and not only was he saying things would be better, he was promising that Daren's new family would help him do it. This grownup had proved his parents wrong, and was now the CAPTAIN of the biggest ship Daren had ever seen. For the first time, Daren finally began to believe what he'd been told. The pain WAS really over.
Leon watched silently, knowing that right now Darren needed to process the situation himself. When he saw the shift in posture, he barely withheld a sigh of relief. The part he'd not stated was that his uncle stepped in after a failed suicide attempt; he prayed silently that he'd reached Daren in time to keep him away from that path. At that point, he saw a spark appear in Daren's eye that had not been there before, and he knew that for the first time in his short life, Daren had gained the courage to fight his past.
Daren fell forward and wrapped his arms around Leon. "I wanna be just like you when I grow up," he whispered as he hugged Leon with all his might.
Leon smiled as he returned the hug. "Thank you; that would be an honor."
Brant was sitting off to the side, innocently trading friendly insults with Justy as Brant 'listened' for any possible problem-makers coming up the brow. Suddenly Brant's eyebrows shot up, and he held up his hand to stop Justy. "Bro, I hope Galli's got that paradox machine fueled up; I'm pretty sure I'm about to need it."
Justy looked to where Brant's gaze had fallen, and nodded his head. When Brant had invited Justy to join him, Justy had tried to decline; he found that Spock thought otherwise when his opinion was overruled. Now he was glad that he'd been forced to join Brant; the long-term outlook of his undead Clan brother actually helped him with clearing his head. "What ya' got, bro?"
"Local Social Services, and she's clean. The kid's another story." Brant explained as the two of them stood. "He's protected, and his big brother's crossed over. We need to get the kid out of there and into Clan custody. Hopefully we can catch his brother too."
Justy glanced at the awestruck seven-year-old blond boy just stepping onto the quarterdeck. "You see what the kid'll tell ya, I'll handle the worker. Drop the contacts; if he's seen his brother that'll give you some credibility."
Brant nodded, and began to remove his optix and place them in their case. As he was closing the case, the movement of displaced air behind him got his attention. He turned his head and sighed. "What now?"
Ezra giggled as halos appeared over both Cody and Adrian's heads for a second. "We're here to introduce Uncle Tracy to his new son!"
Both Brant and Justy rolled their eyes. "Chill with the future, Ezzy," Brant instructed. "Let things happen, no pushing. Got it?"
"Got it!" Ezzy replied. "Daddy said to tell you that he's been playing hide and seek with his room in your head, and that he's already put out a call to get the information you need."
Brant grinned. "Your Dad isn't as sneaky as he thinks he is; I felt him set up the link back in Chicago. I don't think it was a conscious decision at the time Kyle did it, but his little mind trick was one of the big things that made me decide to take Cory up on the offer. He managed one of the closest bonds possible in the Underworld, despite being alive."
"Leech, you and me are gonna have a LONG talk!" Justy muttered with raised eyebrows. "That just explained a LOT of things. Busted, brat!"
Noticing that their 'targets' seemed to be being held up by the Petty Officer of the Watch, Brant shook his head in defeat and motioned for the group to follow him. "Something wrong, Dave?" Brant asked as they got closer.
"No Sir." Dave stated. "Ms. Overton was asking if it would be possible to meet with Director Butler. I was trying to determine his location."
"We'll take it from here." Brant advised. "Will the two of you follow us, please? There are a few security measures that we have in place before meetings are arranged. It's for your protection as well as ours."
The lady and boy turned, which put the boy about two feet behind the lady. Brant made eye contact with the lady first, her reaction telling him that she'd instantly just pegged him as 'Alien'. He was purposely not trying to read her, counting on Adrian to catch any surface thoughts. He wasn't disappointed, as the tight 'channel' that Clan telepaths monitored during operations suddenly had Adrian giggling 'She thinks you're alien, and is impressed that the Clan's not just saying they're for all families everywhere, they're proving it.'
'Thanks.' Brant thought back as he shifted his gaze to the boy. The kid's big blue eyes were wide, and as he locked eyes with Brant he seemingly unconsciously brought his right hand up as if showing it to the strange older kid.
Brant glanced at the hand, and spotted the faded remains of something that would escape the attention of most humans; the boy was 'marked' for sure. He lifted his eyes back up to lock in with the boy, then smiled and nodded slightly. The glowing smile he got in return was the final piece of evidence Brant needed; this boy was 'in the know'. Even if Brant hadn't already decided to help, the rules of vampire society would have required him to intervene if he thought the boy was in any danger.
Brant led them to a tent set up for just such purposes. Once inside, he offered them seats on the couches as he remained standing to make introductions. "I'll introduce our side first, then we can get down to business. I'm Brant Mattix-McCarthy, Clan Intelligence. Over here is Justin Dodds, Headquarters Chief Intel Officer, and next to him is Ezra Richardson, Command Intel. The munchkin next to him is Adrian Jobs, Alligator Alley Operations and Intel Chief, and the last one is Cody Short, Clan Short Command.
The social worker nodded and smiled. "It is a pleasure to meet you, gentlemen, I'm Karen Overton, Director of Broward County Youth Services. This little guy here is Cooper Thomas, I had to pick him up from a failed temporary placement. When I heard on the radio that the fleet was coming in, I decided this might be a good chance to catch the Director of the new local Clan division. I've heard good things from Orange County about their partnership with Clan Headquarters, and hope that we can set up a good working relationship as well. By the way, please call me Karen."
Justy reached out and pulled Brant into the only remaining empty spot on the couch. "Sit. Good puppy." Justy smirked as he stood up. "Karen, please call me Justy. I deal with Orange County personally, so I can fill you in on the methods we use on our end. Chances are, once you've met Tracy most of your interaction is going to be with Adrian over there. First, I need to know how you feel about telepaths."
Karen's smile grew bigger. "We share stories between the upper management of the various counties. I was called by Orange County's director, Randal Franklin, within minutes of the announcement of Alligator Alley. I have put out a memo that all workers will need to become Clan-certified to continue working with children. I wouldn't be surprised if at least one of you already knows more about Cooper than any of our staff. Before you ask, yes I consent to being scanned by Clan telepaths whenever in their presence to assist the Clan with locating cases where they need to intervene."
"She's a keeper, bro!" Cody giggled.
"I think I know why Tracy calls you a rat, little brother. Grab the rest of your pack and get to work already." Justy said with a grin.
As the three giggling boys joined Justy, Brant said, "Hey Cooper? If you want, you can come over here and the two of us can head-talk while they're busy."
Cooper grinned as he yelled "YEAH!" and jumped off the couch. At that point Brant was truly glad for his enhanced reactions, as he barely managed to catch the little seven-year-old that pounced him.
"Nice! You're ready for the advanced pouncing course already, Cooper!" Justy observed with a giggle.
Karen tilted her head. "I've taken a personal interest in getting him placed somewhere nice, and he's never reacted like that."
Already getting reports from the rest of the group, Justy smiled. "It wasn't your fault; he's one of the special cases where the Clan will need to get involved due to circumstances from before he was placed with you. Adrian and Cody are going to visit the last family that you placed him with; while they were not aware of what he's going to need, they did form a kind of bond with him and appear to be good candidates for a couple of the cases we're going to take over for you. They'll just need some special needs training to teach them how to help the kids recover. I think that once they see what we're gonna do for Cooper, they'll understand why they had problems."
After glancing at Cooper, who was doing an exceptional imitation of a leech on Brant's chest, Karen commented "Why is it I get the feeling that you're skating around telling me something?"
"Because we are," Justy stated honestly. "Due to a few things that've happened since the Clan formed, we've got access to information that doesn't exist to most of the rest of society. The access to that information was given on the terms that we keep it need-to-know, and we're keeping our part of the bargain."
"Ahh!" Karen said with a nod. "That I can accept; knowing that you take confidentiality that seriously makes me a lot more comfortable.
Justy started to reply, but then spun around to stare at Brant. "You gotta be shittin' me!" Justy exclaimed.
"Nope," Brant stated seriously. "I'm packaging it now."
"Ezzy, tell your Dad to open up a Kylegram to your Grandpa John!" Justy ordered. "He's got a package in Brant's head to deliver!"
"He's on it, Uncle Justy." Ezra replied.
"Good. That kinda shit ain't gonna be gotten away with on my watch!" Justy growled. "Cooper's got a really good memory about what happened to the rest of his family. It wasn't an accident; even though it looked like it to the local police. We are turning it over to Federation Security, due to Cooper's dad being employed by Starfleet at the time."
"They'll accept Cooper's recount as evidence?" Karen asked.
"Yep; it was located and verified by Vulcan-certified telepaths." Justy replied. "The only thing left is to grab the buttholes that did it and bring them to trial. Uncle John heads Federation Security in this region, so he's the best guy to give it to."
Just then Justy's commbadge began chirping. Justy tapped it, and replied "This is Justy."
'Justy, This is Uncle John. Federation Security hereby requests Clan Short take the minor Cooper Tracy Thomas into protective custody. Notify me if you need any paperwork.'
"Got it handled, Uncle John." Justy replied. "I have the local Child Services director here, so I should know soon if I need anything."
"I'm good; the Clan transfer paperwork will be enough," Karen stated.
"She states our transfer will be enough, Uncle John," Justy relayed.
'Great; the less paper trail the better. I'd recommend a twenty-four hour watch for the next few days.'
"Trust me, if anyone messes with him the reaction is gonna really suck!" Justy advised.
'Understood. That's good to hear. John out.'
Justy turned his attention back to Karen. "You've been cleared to meet with Tracy. You'll be escorted by Rainbow-boy and the Rat Pack; right now we're at alert and the Unit guys won't let you within sight of him otherwise. Ezzy, you're in charge of Cooper until Brant and I are done. Spaghetti time, little guy."
"Got it!" Ezra giggled. "I'll be back after y'all get back to get you."
"Don't ask!" Brant advised Karen as she gave them a curious look. "Trust me! Just go on like nothing was said; you'll keep your sanity that way!"
Hearing the pain in Brant's voice; Karen took his advice and nodded. Cooper climbed off of Brant's lap, quickly moving to take the hands of Cody and Adrian. "Remember what I told you, Cooper;" Brant said as the group began to head out, "don't let go of either of them until Justy and I join you."
"Okay Uncle Brant!" Cooper replied happily.
Once it was down to just the two of them, Justy turned to Brant. "Uncle Brant?"
Brant nodded. "He wanted me to adopt him, but Matthew and I have a few things to iron out before we're ready to adopt a normal like him. He's happy to have us as uncles, though."
"At least you didn't abandon him." Justy acknowledged. "Dust off Brandar dude, it's time to step into the night again."
Brant nodded, and tapped his commbadge. "George, Justy and I need our robes, the black unmarked ones."
'On their way,' George replied.
"Why the black?" Justy asked curiously.
"The Elders found out the Founder Council re-formed somehow; Tyne and I are guessing it was through those renegades he had to deal with." Brant explained. "As such, we are now considered above the Elders in vampire society. While you're not on the council, as long as you're working with me you are considered my equal, even though you're somewhat normal."
"Bite me!" Justy commented with a grin. "So you're gonna pull the 'I'm part of the ruling class' trick? You think it'll actually work?"
"If I get a fight, someone's gonna find out what it feels like to be a jellyfish," Brant stated seriously as their robes appeared on the couch next to them.
"I heard about that, and I'm pretty sure I don't wanna see it in person!" Justy stated with a shiver.
Ezzy popped back in, already wearing his own black robe. "You said that it's okay to tell you that Tracy and Karl are adopting Cooper when you get back."
"Do Mikyvis have bones?" Justy asked hopefully as he held his hands to the side of his head.
"Don't tempt me to find out!" Brant quipped.
"You're silly uncles!" Ezzy giggled. "Daddy passed me the info on where we need to go just after I left here, so we're all set when you're ready."
Brant and Justy quickly put on their robes before they were subjected to any more twists. After checking that the three of them were presentable, Brant nodded his head. "Hit it, Ezzy."
Marcellus Lewis awoke from his daytime sleep with a nagging feeling in the back of his head. As he regained full consciousness, he realized what the feeling was; there was someone new in the house, and it was someone who knew how to block his personal 'extra' as the kids nowadays called it. As he began to prepare for a fight, a youthful voice announced in his head 'By the authority granted by the only Council senior to the Elders you are summoned to the study. Be advised that any attempt to fight us will result in your termination.'
Marcellus' eyes went wide; at his age he'd gained enough experience that it took quite a bit of power to overcome his blocks. The fact that the entity that summoned him got through so easily made him re-think his plans. Anyone that skilled could very well carry out their threat of termination; and after almost two hundred years, Marcellus was not planning on allowing someone else to determine his time to go. Instead, he quickly got dressed and headed into the hall, only to find his students waiting for him.
"Am I to assume that you were summoned as well, children?" he asked patiently. Despite the fact that he looked twelve, while two of the five looked obviously older than him, none of the 'students' even blinked an eye at being called children. At their nods, he continued "You shall follow me then. Remain peaceful, as our guests seemingly are at an advantage."
"Yes, Professor," the entire group replied in unison.
Marcellus led his group into the study, where three hooded figures waited patiently. As they entered the room, the center figure stated "You may be seated."
Noticing that the three visitors had placed themselves in such a way as to have an advantage in any type of offensive plan he might have devised, Marcellus motioned for his students to take seats on the couches while he went to his desk and sat in the chair.
"The desk has been disarmed, Sir." the shortest of the three said as he turned towards the center person, who then lowered his hood.
"Professor, I am Brandar; I am aware that you have received the declaration of the Elders as to my status. Please do not worry about the failing of your primary extra, I and my companions are immune to Readers."
Marcellus nodded, his mind quickly assessing the situation. Blocking a reader in general was not an easy task; blocking one of his age was only achievable by the most experienced of the vampire culture. That, in combination with the fact that one of Brandar's companions had blood that smelled poisonous while the other had no blood smell at all, was enough to convince Marcellus that the person in front of him was, in fact, who he stated he was. "Sir, may I have the liberty of addressing my students?"
"You may." Brant replied, keeping things formal in deference to the age of Marcellus.
Marcellus turned towards his students. "Children, you have been blessed with a rare honor. Before you stands the One who may override the Elders with impunity. Few if any ever meet an Elder; the chance to be summoned by Brandar is even less. Remember this night."
The taller of the still-hooded figures dropped his hood. "Professor," Justy stated, "If you think Brandar is an honor, you're going to love this. I think this place is really too small for you to properly pass on your knowledge to the freshly turned. As a representative of Clan Short, I'm inviting you to bring your students to our division here in Ft Lauderdale, where we will provide suitable accommodations and a proper classroom for you to teach those who are interested in the modern history of your culture. We are able to provide assistance for your students to find deserving 'meals' in multiple locations in the world, and can even help with emergency hunger attacks. A bonus is the interaction with 'normals' that the newly turned crave is possible within our compound, as they will be part of the society."
"While that sounds acceptable," Marcellus stated thoughtfully, "I am not aware of any situation where interacting with normals for extended periods has resulted in anything but heartbreak."
Ezra dropped his hood. "Sir, I'll remind you that you said that when we're playing Uno sometime next millennium. Due to the various lifespans within the Clan, you'd be more of a help than you realize."
Marcellus looked over Ezra, surprised at how 'human' the bloodless one looked. "I stand corrected." he acknowledged. "With this new information, I shall graciously accept the offer. This structure is now requiring more maintenance than I wish to involve myself in, as such I have been preparing to search out a more stable structure soon. May I ask what led you to choose me?"
Brant nodded. "A year ago, you happened upon an accident, or so it appeared. There were two young boys involved; one was basically okay but the other was critically injured. You took the injured boy, used some of the extras you've learned, and brought his body to the point he wouldn't be disfigured or crippled after being turned. As the remaining organ damage wouldn't be an issue once he crossed over, you gave him life and looked the other way whenever he snuck off to spend time with his surviving brother." Brant motioned for the second-youngest of the group to join him. "Come here, Conner."
An obviously nervous ten-year-old copy of Cooper stood up quickly and rushed to stand in front of Brant stiffly. "Yes, Elder?"
Brant smiled. "Relax Conner; your little brother calls me Uncle Brant. I think you've earned the right to do the same with the way you've been looking after him."
"But ... but ... you're BRANDAR!" Conner exclaimed.
Brant squatted down to be at eye level with Conner. "You've been under my protection since before I got here. If the Professor hadn't of handled things the way he did, he'd be a boneless mass on the floor right now. He saved the rest of your classmates as well, only it was after they were turned. You were sired by the most compassionate vampire I have met since I was turned; now you get to share him with your normal brother and your new family."
"You still didn't answer why!" Conner stated.
Brant shook his head. "Now I see where Cooper gets his curiosity from. You're still a newblood, and your little brother needs you. He also needs the stability of a 'normal' family, which is something I can't give him. I've made a promise to him to keep both of you under my protection, which led to him declaring me 'uncle' to both of you. It doesn't matter if you call me Uncle; I'll still be one to you either way, since I keep my promises."
Conner stared at Brant for a second, then wordlessly fell towards him, knocking both to the ground. Conner latched on to Brant, and began crying out the loss he'd been keeping inside for the last year.
Meanwhile, Marcellus had been studying Justy, and decided to speak. "Elder, if I may?"
Justy nodded. "Go ahead."
"I've observed that you carry the feeling of a tremendous loss around you," Marcellus explained, "and I believe I might be able to offer some assistance, if you so permit. At times, consulting with one who has shared a similar loss but is outside the current situation is much more effective than attempting to deal with the issue yourself."
"What do you know about losing the two best parents in the Universe because some assholes decided to try to take over Earth?" Justy growled accusingly, his tight control on his emotions slipping.
"While the players might have changed, I know the script quite well," Marcellus replied calmly. "Come, young Elder, let us retire to a more private location. What needs to be said is not for youngling's ears, as the Turned are subject to vivid nightmares."
Before Justy had a chance to reply, Brant interrupted. "Do it, Justy. Not for me, but for your brothers and yourself."
Justy's head snapped around as he was about to tell Brant to keep his nose out of it. The sight of Brant comforting Conner froze the words in Justy's throat. A thought quickly ran through Justy's brain; 'If Brant can do this after what he's just been through, what right do I have to refuse someone trying to help me?' Instead of going off on Brant, Justy turned back to Marcellus. "Lead the way, I guess."
As Justy followed Marcellus, he took notice of more details of the slight twelve-year-old in front of him. While skinny, the Professor was extremely well toned, as if his pre-turning was spent being very active. He seemed to glide more than walk, yet it seemed that he could react in microseconds if needed. His skin was light, yet he had black hair that dropped past his shoulders. That triggered something in Justy's brain, making him realize who else he knew that walked like that - Chief Tecumseh!
"Yes, young Elder, no'tha was Weyapiersenwah and my nik-yah was Ruth of the family Johnson." Marcellus commented without turning around. "Lenawe nilla; I am Shawnee. Your brother of many colors has informed me that he has lifted his protections to allow you to verbalize that which you can not yet speak of."
"What is your true name? I don't open my head to aliases." Justy semi-joked.
"Mai-ah msipesi." Marcellus replied, his amusement obvious.
The Universal Translator in Justy's commbadge did its job, and seconds later Justy heard the English translation. "Okay, where are we going, Young Panther?"
"To the rear deck; I expect ni-je-ni-nuh to join us shortly."
"Your brother?" Justy queried.
"Yes; he is preparing a meal for our youngest student." Marcellus stated. "All will be understood in time, Psai-wi Nne-noth-tu."
They reached the deck, and after taking seats Marcellus began talking, all the while staring at the moon. "To accept help from another, you must first know the other has experienced your loss. I was born the spring of the year 1800 in a small settlement in what is now known as Alabama. My mother was weak after childbirth, but survived. She was not able to fully function however, and was allowed by the tribe to remain on what you would call light duty. This worked to the benefit of the Tribe, as she was able to assist with the little ones and allow the other mothers to perform more strenuous tasks. My Elder brother was the main one to raise me once I started walking, and we became very close because of it. Shortly after the middle of my twelfth summer, our settlement was ambushed by colonists who were responding to other tribe's actions in other territories. The only survivors were myself and my brother, as we were out exploring at the time in the opposite direction as where the attack came from. We returned to the remnants of our settlement, and were just sitting there in tears when a warpainted warrior came out of the darkness and found us. He took us in, and turned us so that we could assist him in avenging our family's demise. What we found out, however, was that his intentions were not as pure as he stated, and we ended up taking out our sire for our own protection. We did search out the instigator of the attack, and upon reading him learned the first lesson of our afterlife; never assume evil intentions until you have walked in the other's shoes. The true source of our loss was an anti-Indian propaganda artist in the territory capitol. He had fed the locals false information designed to make them forget our peaceful co-existence and attack us. We found that man in the summer of 1815, and ensured that he suffered for each of the deaths he had caused. He finally passed on in 1817."
"Yes, you were sloppy, little brother. He still had another year of penance to pay." a new voice stated before a fifteen-year-old Indian boy stepped out of the shadows. "He has gotten better, though, Elder. He is more aware of what blood loss will do to the living. We don't stand for instigating slaughter of innocents, and have vowed to not go into the sun for as long as those scabs of society exist."
"Damn!" Justy exclaimed in shock. "I thought JJ held grudges! May I ask your name, warrior?"
The teen smiled. "A polite Elder? I see not all rumors are true. I am known to most as Winston, and to my family as Msithwe."
"I think Rattlesnake fits much better, based on what I just heard." Justy stated. "May I use your family name?"
"My brother has shared that with you which is only disclosed to family," Winston stated. "While I know his reasons are his own, I am confident in them and accept his judgement as my own."
"Thank you," Justy acknowledged. "I am Justin, but am called Justy by my family.
"Sit, brother," Marcellus told Winston. "Our young Elder shares a pain we both know well, and needs our assistance to extract the poison."
"As it should be with family," Winston acknowledged. "I believe I came in at the point that you were about to share your history, Justy. Begin when you are ready."
Justy nodded, somehow more comfortable with the two boys sitting with him than he'd been with any others who had tried to help him.
Ezzy was having a little fun while his companions dealt with the reasons they were here. The remaining three students had gathered around him, and he took the chance to make some new friends. The youngest, eight-year-old Jason Hawkins, was now cuddled with Ezra, his strawberry-blond covered head pressed against Ezra's chest. The other two sat nearby, watching with amusement as they talked.
"You really think that Clan Short will want us?" fifteen-year-old Ivan asked as he brushed his unruly auburn hair out of his eyes.
"I know they will," Ezzy replied with a grin. "You guys are no different than anyone else in the Clan."
Sixteen-year-old Frazier shook his head, throwing his dirty blond curly hair into disarray. "Dude, we gotta kill to survive! How can they allow that?"
Ezra turned his head towards Frazier. "Simple. The Clan has it's own Death Row for those sentenced to death who are not executed on the spot. Uncle Cory thinks it is more humane for someone who can minimize the pain of death to send them to their final judgement than it is to use something human-made. With you guys joining Frank and Uncle Brant, the other guys can cut back on executing on the spot, which messes with their heads."
"So by being vampires, we're actually helping?" Frazier responded.
"Yeah; I've seen the hurt they go through when they execute someone, and I think they'll appreciate knowing they have options." Ezra explained.
"Besides, I'll bet all of you guys have families again before the week is over." Brant interjected.
"What about the Professor and Uncle Winston?" Jason asked in a small voice.
Ezzy smiled as he gave Jason a squeeze. "They just called Justy their brother, which makes them part of the Clan family. I think they're gonna end up living in the Clan compound right along with you guys. I'll bet the Professor keeps teaching, and even starts teaching normals too."
"Ezzy, if you ever find any of our family that's normal, mark it on the calendar as a first!" Brant quipped. "Seriously, just let things happen, guys. The good stuff is more fun if you don't expect it. Trust me, I've been there."
"You mean like Cooper's worker deciding to come to the ship with Cooper instead of just callin'?" Conner asked softly.
"Exactly," Brant replied with a nod. "Most case workers I've met would have never brought one of their kids into a crowd like that."
"It had to still be daylight!" Frazier exclaimed as the timing finally hit him. "How'd you survive? Is that your skill?"
Brant shook his head. "No, it is a gift from someone I respect a lot because he has worked to look past his prejudices and treat me as a person. The fact he has good reason for his views makes it that much more special, and I'm proud to call him a brother; even though the friend part is still being worked on slowly."
"What happened to make him like that?" Ivan asked.
"An event long before the Elders that I won't discuss without his approval." Brant replied seriously. "Just remember this; we are NOT the only long-living species native to this planet, and there are things in the past that are better left there."
Marcellus overheard Brant's statement as he led the group in from outside. "Heed our Elder's words, younglings. I have learned from my blood-brother Justy many things, some of which shall never pass my lips due to the horror."
"Blood Brother?" Brant asked warily.
"Fear not, Elder; while most have forgotten the means, both myself and Winston are well-versed in the proper procedure to protect the living during the ceremony."
'He's safe, Uncle Brant,' Ezra told Brant mentally. 'I was watching through Uncle Justy's eyes, and was ready to pop out and reverse it if anything bad happened. This put Uncle Justy on a better timeline, he's not hurting inside as much but he's still fully normal... or at least normal for him according to you! Wait until I tell him what you said!'
'Thanks, Ezzy!' Brant sent back. "Hey Conner, do you think we can stand up now long enough for me to give those three brothers over there hugs?"
"Sure!" Conner giggled as he finally let go of Brant.
As Brant was getting up, Winston noticed something familiar. "Elder, while I understand introductions are pending, I am Winston. May I ask of that decoration on your arm? Jason's dinner had seven of them in his possession; he was invited to the evening meal due to his attempts to locate some of our brethren who would be interested in attacking the new Clan compound."
Brant stiffened at the news. "You have intercepted a very wanted man, Winston. I need to see within your mind to proceed further."
"Proceed, Elder." Winston acknowledged with a bow of his head.
A few seconds later, Brant spun around. "Ezzy, go with Winston and suck every single thing out of that slimeball's head, right down to his very first thought in the womb. Brain-dump it to George and have him transcribe it for Dom to review at his base, then deliver what's left of the asshole to Dom for prosecution. This is all priority one. I am taking possession of the contraband and will be contacting the Seer personally."
"Gotcha!" Ezzy replied. "Don't go too far, Jason; I want more of those cuddles!" he added before turning to Winston and giggling. "Get ready, this is going to be the fastest hour in your whole afterlife!"
As both Ezra and Winston vanished, much to the surprise of the younger vampires, Brant motioned for Jason to join him. Kneeling down, Brant put a hand on his shoulder. "I'll take care of your need to feed, Jason." he said softly. "You and I share a special trait. I don't kill those I feed off of either. It takes somebody really, really strong to keep that part of themselves intact no matter how hungry they are."
"I'm not broken?" Jason wondered softly.
"No, little brother, you're not broken." Brant replied with a smile. "In fact, I'm very proud of you for listening to your soul as to when it is right and when it is wrong. There will be times that you just know it is right to go all the way, but most of the time you'll decide that you need a second person to confirm that it is their time. That is justice, not weakness."
"The Professor always told me it was okay, but I thought he was just trying to make me feel good." Jason explained, a smile of relief on his face.
Ivan interrupted. "Jason, the rest of us have been forcing ourselves. If our Elder says we don't have to, we'll be doing just like you."
"All you have to do is say the word, guys." Brant said loud enough for everyone to hear. "Where you're going to be living, the rule is generally two people or more to execute someone who deserves it, and both have to agree that it is needed."
"Me too?" Conner asked.
"Yeah, you too," Brant chuckled. "By the way, I've picked up on what your extra is. That's pretty awesome, shifting out-of-phase so you can walk through solids. How'd you like to talk with an expert about it? I think you'll understand him, since Ezzy already gave you guys the language dump."
"Really? That'd be awesome! The Professor's been guessing to help me, since its a rare extra!"
"Just a second, I'll call him," Brant said with a grin. Turning slightly, Brant slapped his leg. "Slider! Here boy, I've got a new friend for you to meet!"
The rest of the group looked at Brant like he'd lost his mind, a least until he was pounced by Slider coming from the ceiling. Once Slider has suitably subdued Brant, he looked around, spotted Conner, and exclaimed "Woof!" while letting his tongue hang out the side of his mouth.
Conner grinned before woofing back. After a good few kisses (boy/vampire kisses and Kyle-taught, Timmy approved hyper dog kisses), belly rubs (for both... go figure), ear scratches (for Conner) and tail wags (by Slider), both sat down and started woofing and yapping at each other for a while.
As this was happening, and as the others were grinning at them both, Brant said softly to the others, "My boyfriend'll be here soon. Just to warn you all: I've only just turned him yesterday, and not the way we were... he's doing well with his abilities, and some he has down real good, but one of his perks as a human was that he was Vulcan VSO trained and he is, was, and will always be my loveable stone cold bastard of an assassin... he's having some issues turning his empathic control off."
"And that is a problem why, Elder?" the Professer asked.
"Because he can scare the piss out of me if I don't prepare for it, and it's only some of our other high mind powered guys in the Clan that protect everyone IN the Clan from him until he learns control."
"Oh... can I go take a leak just to be safe?" Jason giggled.
"Ha ha... we wish we could," Brant groaned.
"I heard that, you delicious piece of cadaver, you," came a silky whisper from the darkest part of the room, the corner overshadowed by a large bookcase.
Frazier blinked and shuddered, "How long has he been there?"
"Been where?" came the same voice from the darkness under the sofa.
"Love, stop toying with them," Brant sighed.
"He's not a shadow-walker... this is too... refined," Marcellus said softly. "I can't even locate him."
"Greetings, Old One," 'Vampire' said politely as he rose up from behind the chair the Professor was sat upon.
The new arrival's attire was a little startling to most there, even Brant, and especially Justy. His skin-tight black VSO jumpsuit could be seen, with the now gold bars of a Commander running down the sleeves, but like a cloak or robe out of Harry Potter, shadows were flowing around him. They were almost opaque and 'felt' heavy in the air. The most shocking, to Justy, and unsettling to all but the professor, were the screaming, silent faces that seemed to morph in and out and flow round and about the shadow-cloak. Vampire smiled without it reaching his eyes, then he shook himself and his eyes smiled too. "I think I'll ask Jace to change my code-name, Brant... 'Hades' sounds so much better than 'Vampire' now that I am one..."
Brant shook his head. "Chill, hun; they're almost all newbloods. You gotta settle for being called 'Hades' in the bedroom."
"All of a few days older than me and you're acting like Aunt Teri," came the silky whisper that was now filled with love.
Jason giggled, gasped and clutched at his groin. The others, save Justy, Brant and the Professor, reacted almost the same. "Wow... it's not just fear you project," Jason blushed as he attempted to get his 'tent' into a comfortable position.
"Oh, oops... hold on... ummm... it turned off now?"
"Yeah, but I've still got a boner!"
"Dang it, these are my favorite boxers too!" Frazier grumbled, his grin giving away the fact he was playing.
Giggles from all met that comment, and the gleam from Vampire's teeth were the brightest in the room. That, along with his very bright yellow eyes and the still screaming faces on his shadow-cloak made Justy groan. "I'm shielded and still you scare me, bro... what's with the cloak? Can you, you know, tone it down or turn it off or something? It's creeping me the fuck out!"
With an almost unnoticed flick of his eyes, Vampire pulled the shadows around him back into himself. "Better?"
"Much. Thanks, bro."
"You're very welcome, Tit-bit," Vampire grinned joyfully. "In answer... I only just found out I can do this..." he added as a two pronged spear formed in the shadows by the bookcase and flew to his hand with a clearly audible thud, "... and a few other things too. What did you do to me, Brandar?" he finished with a fake chide to his lover.
"Told ya I wasn't gonna let you get out of our relationship that easy, Matthew!" Brant giggled. "I'm keeping you, even if you can scare the shit outta me at a moments notice!"
At that instant, Ezzy and Winston returned. Spotting Matthew, Ezzy quickly pounced him, exclaiming "Uncle Matthew! Cuddle time!"
"Ah, Not-So-Yummy," the now named to those there 'Matthew' cooed as he snuggled the boy very close. "I'm so glad I found you this easily. I have something to ask of you in a moment... first... Brandar," Matthew said formally, an odd look in his eyes. One that hadn't been there since he was turned. "I am afraid I may have overstepped some bounds... should I speak of it here or will you need the local council to step... in... wait, you," he said, turning to the professor. "You are old. And I sense that you know already what I am and mayhaps what I have done..."
Marcellus nodded. "What you are, chil... what you are, Matthew, is a Wraith. You are a Shadow-bender. A Shadow-Walker. A Shadow-Former... a... Soul-stealer... and I can sense it from the faces that were upon that cloak... there were the same six, and they echo the regret and pain of five vampires and one human..."
"Please tell me they at least deserved it?" Brant pleaded.
A tear of blood formed in Vampire's eye as he put Ezra down. "The human was a familiar for a coven of five sick fucks... they were raping and torturing children... young children. Those whose reactions were 'fun' enough were turned and then tortured... for years. I had to end ten... all... allll..." His voice hitched in his throat, and he had to fight through his flood of tears to be heard, "... all younger than this one here," he said pointing at Jason, "all young, all innocent, all in pain... I killed them to put them out of the madness they were locked in, bound by the blood, in a pain and torment I had never seen... five are saved, two are still human, all held by my soft shadows til I could find a Mikyvis to aid them... or another stronger,.... braver... than I... the man, the human, I sucked dry in seconds, and so great was my fury that I felt a snap in my guts and I could FEEL him be pulled to pieces and into my heart... the five vampires were fighting ghosts of my brothers I formed to keep them hemmed in and they started wailing as if all hells had opened... I felt larger than life and power and pulled all the blood from their forms, one by one, forcing them to feel the pain they had for centuries afflicted onto others... I hold their power as my own, now... their gifts are MINE... and ... help me, I am losing myself, Brant! What is HAPPENING TO ME?!"
Marcellus exchanged glances with Winston. "There is a word for what you're becoming in the Legends; you are Justice. It is said that Justice will absorb the skills of evil and turn them against the very evil they were used for. You are a Reader, Matthew; a very specialized Reader."
Winston nodded. "I learned much from the Bloodless One on our little excursion; I believe his natural abilities will assist you in giving your absorbed skills a proper place."
"The first of the vampires I absorbed was the reader, Old Ones," Vampire said softly, not wishing to cause offense. "I judged him and the human before him as a VSO officer... but I cannot control them... they are in my mind. Six of them. Perverts. I WANT to do what they do and I am fighting them... how can I turn this to good? I am... ancient fear... the darkness of form... Dracula was as I am, a stealer of souls... and a bloodhunt was called on him in ages past... Vampires fear me and mine as they have always done... " Matthew was rattling this off so fast that only Justy was having problems following him. It was the look in his face, however, that said this was not his memories or knowledge, for no fledgling as young as he would likely know it. "... ten like me are feared in history and told as stories to scare those of us in darkness... You met one, once... I see it in your mind," he continued, looking at the Professor. "You were a year in darkness when you and your sire was called to a hunt on the 'dread-wolf of the steppes'... a Wraith as I am... who fed only off his own and hunted all for sport... evil incarnate... will I fall to that? Will 'Matthew' be swallowed in darkness?... have I become death? The destroyer of worlds?" he finished hysterically.
"You have what he did not," Marcellus replied calmly. "Love. Use your love, and it will vanquish the evil that you absorbed."
Matthew crumpled for a moment, then his face went blank, dead, still. His control over his broadcasting fell and they all felt the fear of the shadows wrap around them again.
Ezra rolled his eyes and added his shield to all the others as well as Justy, just to be safe, before taking and holding onto Matthew's hand.
Vampire looked down at his little 'Not-So-Yummy' and smiled coldly. "Three for the Time Councilor and I, to add to the twain we do now care fore. Two are still of the sun, and shall abide with JJ and Adam til the stars burn from the skies... so I saw upon their foreheads when I saved them... to thee it is appointed their healing, of mind, of body, of soul, little Mikyvis... behold your patients, Doctor Ezra," Vampire finished as the shadows under all the furniture moved out, became a ball and deposited five naked, sleeping children in the midst of the group. Two vampire brothers and a girl who was obviously their sister, with bright ginger hair each and cute sharp pointy fangs pressing against their lower lips. Marks and cuts were upon their forms. They were no older than four, if that. "Triplets. They have been in shadow for three years... help them first..." Matthew said as emotion came back to his face. Then he looked down at the remaining two, a boy and a girl of three or maybe four. "They are twins also... and bled near to death. I keep them alive... they shall sleep til Ezzy can help them..."
Marcellus smiled. "And you doubt your control over the minds you took in, Matthew? You love them all. I see that in your heart... remember your love, 'Vampire of Justice', remember your love."
"Are we gonna be tested on this later?" Conner asked.
"Yes." Marcellus replied seriously, causing his students to groan.
As Ezra started to work on all five children at once (his score on his Multitasking Mikyvis SAT was well above average, after all) Matthew looked down at Conner and Slider, "Been giving him lessons like you did me, you great adorable pooch?"
"Good boy... go tell Aunt Hellen that the remains of the leg of lamb in the fridge is for you to snack on with your friends."
Slider had vanished with a pop, causing Conner to giggle.
Conner stood up, then walked through the couch to give Brant a hug. "Thanks, Uncle Elder!" he gushed.
"What, what? Uncle? I didn't know you had Conner as your nephew, love?" Matthew suddenly bubbled, and his outburst of emotion smote into all there, even Justy this time.
"Sorry, only blocking the nasty emotions he gives off," Ezra mumbled as he worked. Then he started swearing up a storm before adding, "Ripping their souls apart was too easy, Uncle Vamp... you should have done worse... give me a mo, here..."
Conner popped over from where Brant was and snuggled with Matthew as all there gave more space to the working Mikyvis. "You're scary and cool and awesome... can you teach me how you be so, you know, classic-vampire? Ol' Professor here wants us to be dignified alla time..." he added with a sidelong cheeky grin at Marcellus.
"Read a lot of Anne Rice and nibble on your lover's.... you got a special someone yet, kiddo?" Matthew caught himself before he made Brant vanish through the floor with a heated blush.
"I'm TEN, Uncle Scary-Butt!" Conner giggled.
"So? Timmy's six and has Ricky who's six. Belar and Ross are both five... going fifty, but still five! Ezra is only a few days old and has two boyfriends.... greedy little Miky! Brant and I are only two years older than you all told, even in darkness... Ezra's eldest brother was only about nine days old when he made sweet passionate love to first a Vulcan then to the Vulcan's husband! Age means the same as great steaming piles of elephant do-do, mate... the question is... has any nice boy or girl here taken your eye, yet?" Matthew responded as he levitated the boy up to look him in the face... then he realized something. "Oh... that was the last asshole's extra... TK... I'm so gonna prank Viccy after..."
"Onea the kids at school was kinda cute, an' we had fun, but we're not boyfriends or nothing. I'm dead now, so he don't even know I still exist." Conner said, his eyes tearing up.
Brant was about to come over with Marcellus to say something and comfort the boy when Matthew backed up a bit, his eyes wide as he stared at Conner's forehead. He lowered the boy back to the ground gently before saying, "I have something to do, and it would be best for you to come with me, the Old Ones, Brant and... and I-Cheya... to do it. But it will be hard. It will hurt, but in the end, you will have joy... If you choose not to come, then we will go without thee, but while the joy you will have will be as great, there will be a pressure of lack of knowledge to help the one your heart cares for... so... make your choice..."
"I'll go." Conner sniffled. "The Professor always tells us that the suggestions of an Elder should be taken as orders unless it goes against your inner being."
"I'll handle the Uno game while you're gone." Justy stated seriously, as a double Uno deck appeared on the end table.
"E...Elder?" Vampire whispered as he stared down at Conner before looking at Brant seriously. "This one is older than I by eight months... I entered this life three days ago by count of existence and less than a day by fact of literal time... Elder?!"
"You are bonded to an Elder of the Council senior to the Elder Council," Marcellus explained. "Your age in Darkness has little to do with your status in the species. You are as much an Elder as Brandar."
"If you call me your Queen, I'll bite it off and you'll have to get Not-So-Yummy to sew it back on for you, got it, Brant?" Matthew grinned evilly at his lover.
"It'll grow back when I sleep!" Brant shot back before sticking his tongue out.
"It'll be repeated punishment then," Matthew giggled before turning serious. He blinked a few times and a 'woof' echoed from the shadows before a shimmer of sparkles appeared and I-Cheya was there, seated and already scooping up little Jason and stripping him for a Sehlat bath.
"He's not gonna eat our little brother, is he?" Ivan asked, obviously preparing to protect Jason at all costs.
[Dead Boy Stinky... Me Clean Dead Boy] I-Cheya grinned before getting down to be business at paw... Jason howling with laughter as the great creature fussed over him, breathing on him, licking, tickling and making him less 'stinky'. [Big boys' turns once me back from fight...] he added, blinking at Iven and Frazier... and Conner... and Marcellus and Winston!
"Just go with it!" Justy advised with a grin. "Ivan, chill and deal the cards already!"
"Are you ready, love?" Matthew asked his lover.
"Yes, squeaky," Brant grinned.
With a pout, Matthew grouched, "You promised! I'll get you." He picked up Conner, who was only a little smaller than himself, breathed in and seemed to enlarge and become more shadowy so as to comfortably hold his new nephew, then he looked at the two older vampires. "Old Ones... are you ready to ride the shadows and Seek our prey?"
They both nodded, with Winston insisting that Vampire call them by their names. With a sudden sucking sound of nothingness pulling on them, Brant, Vampire, Conner, Marcellus, Winston and I-Cheya vanished into the shadows... leaving a soaking wet, happy mess of a Jason to be towel dried by his two older brothers!